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Altered Book:

Gargantua and Pantagruel, Francois Rabelais (1922)

525 b+w illustrations by Joseph Hemard (the first 125 are hand painted). Anonymous, much older binding in oak boards with leather straps, hardware, and bosses.

Artist Statement

I chose this book for the unusual binding. It is very hard to find books bound in wood with any hardware intact. I was expecting this book to contain a spiritual or devotional text, so I was surprised that someone had replaced the original text with the Rabelais, known for his vulgar, satirical humor.

This copy appears to be unique also because the first 125 pages are illuminated. The bookplate of R. I. Nesmith offers a clue to this “Frankenstein” book. He was a numismatist, photographer, and treasure hunter. He operated a bookstore in Rye, New York, called The Foul Anchor, which specialized in books on treasure hunting.

More info on the binding can be found in Suave Mechanicals: Essays on the History of Bookbinding, vol. 6, Julia Miller, Editor (The Legacy Press, 2020), p. 192, “The Faith That Binds: Swiss Anabaptist Devotional Bookbinding in America.”

—Abigail Jones

Short Bio

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